Opalis Packages its Robot and Rendezvous Tools

Hands On: Opalis Software’s Robot and Rendezvous

To ease the management of files and automate certain Windows NT tasks, Opalis Software Inc. packaged two of its products together: Rendezvous, a file transfer and replication tool, and Robot, which automates tasks within Windows NT Server and Exchange Server.

The systems and network we used to test the packaged products was composed of Windows NT 4.0 Server with Service Pack 4 running on a dual-processor 200-MHz machine with 256 MB of memory, Fast SCSI-2 disk drives, and the usual plethora of subordinate equipment. These servers were on a switched 100 MB fiber optic Ethernet backbone system sporting Cisco 2820 and 2916-XL switches along with a routed platform to the users on the other side of a Cisco 2514 router. This network is purely switched and TCP/IP routed with an internal Domain Name Service (DNS) and WINS to support the network.

Installing Rendezvous was easy, save one glitch. When we installed it, one of the few prompts we responded to was a query for the Windows NT account that controls the service. We didn’t fill in the account information, but rather we selected the default System Account. Rendezvous only replicated and transferred files on the local machine, despite being a member of the Windows NT domain security. With this corrected by selecting an administrative account from the NT domain, Rendezvous worked as expected.

The manual is very weak on the installation of the product. It fails to mention the seriousness of getting the logon account correct for the product installation. When we mis-configured the account by selecting the System Account, Rendezvous allowed us to create flows that seemed to operate correctly. No errors were reported, but no actual data transfers ever took place. Opalis Technical Support confirmed this problem and forwarded a fix.

Once installed, Rendezvous works on what is called "flows" of data. A source is defined locally with respect to the server running Rendezvous, and a destination is defined as well. In the tested flows we created, Rendezvous was on Subnet A and two servers resided on the other side of the Cisco router. We created flows that effectively copied and moved files, entire directories, and databases local to the same subnet or across the router to any point within the enterprise. If the destination or source happens to be remote, Rendezvous works with NT RAS to dial remote locations.

We tried to implement Microsoft’s own Replicator Service. Anyone who has tried this knows that replication only occurs from the REPL directory, and only to and from that location. A benefit of Rendezvous, however, is that it works with any server, any location, and any share point in the enterprise.

Once verifying that the flows worked properly, we then configured the product to use many of its additional functions. We configured flows to report to us when things went right and when they went wrong. Event logs were recorded, we received e-mail reports, and generally didn’t miss any notifications.

Apart from the System Account installation snafu, Rendezvous worked well. We found it to be a highly versatile file replication tool.

Robot, the second half of Opalis Software’s bundle, was easier than Rendezvous to install and as simple to set up. While Rendezvous runs on one server, Robot runs as a service and needs to reside on every server it monitors. While installing it we tried to enter the administrator account for service startup; it failed but installation continued using the System Account.

Unlike Rendezvous, this didn’t create a problem with operations. When we uninstalled Robot and reinstalled it, then typed in the username and password for the Windows NT domain administrator that we used to log into the server, Robot accepted it. Even when it failed to accept the username the first time, we went into the Control Panel and adjusted the logon as required.

To use Robot we had to configure the events and tasks for control and monitoring. Having installed the client on the server as well, we configured monitors for some basic controls, such as if our Internet Mail Connector froze or locked up on Exchange Server. Creating new objects was as easy as clicking on the menu bar and browsing the Windows NT domain for the target server.

We manually stopped the Internet Connector and watched as Robot restarted it as if it had stopped on its own. We then received a popup message that the event occurred.

We adjusted the monitor as required for several types of events, actions and reactions. It is simple to setup as many monitors as you need without draining server resources.

Robot lacks the mail notification integration present in Rendezvous. At first this seemed to be a glaring lack of functionality. But on later examination, we found out why it was left out: The Mail Add-In product provides so much more power that we wondered why it isn’t installed by default.

Mail Add-In allows a host of functions to extend Robot. In fact, you can create custom actions and reactions to events as they occur. We e-mailed Robot service for certain events and then had Robot carry out these tasks. For instance, to reboot a server remotely, we sent an e-mail with specific content that causes this action to occur.

In these days of growing concern over viruses, Robot can be configured to receive an e-mail for program execution of tools that scan files or directories, or watch for specific program action on the server.

Robot and Rendezvous
Opalis Software Inc.
Toronto, Ontario
(888) 672-5471
www.opalis.com
Price: Rendezvous: $695, single server license. Robot: $795, single server license. Volume pricing is available for both.

+ Both are solid tools that perform as advertised
+ Rendezvous works with NT RAS for remote locations
+ Robot can be customized for actions and reactions

- Login account problems during installation
- Mail Add-In feature should be standard part of installation